A FEW 50s MORE - Winter 2002

 

Filming Locations: BRECK School & Swimming Pool - Golden Valley, MN

Length: 9 minutes, 36 seconds

 

Returning back to Minnesota for the Christmas Break from my job in New York at ICM, I was determined to make a small short about something that was important to me: swimming. That may sound a little anit-climactic, but for the last three years of my high school life, I was swimming about 6 hours each day during the winter and 3 hours a day the rest of the year. It was exhausting, but my family and I were convinced that it was swimming that would be the 'hook' that would get me into college. It was a lot of days spent getting up at 5:30am to get to the pool, going to school, then swimming afterwards until 7pm. On that kind of schedule, I didn't even see the sun. It was a tough time, and it was a process that my younger brother went through right after me. So, I wanted to do a short about an early-morning practice that develops into a quest to beat a school record.

My brother offered to be the guinea pig, and even my younger sister was there to help us out, though she mostly slept in the bleachers. My old swim coach was there to supervise, and an old swimming buddy was there in case I needed an extra. It wasn't easy, but we were able to get permission to film at the same pool I swam so many miles in back in high school. Hell, the same swimming equipment I used to train with was still on the pool deck. I rented an underwater camera housing, which unlike the 'bag'-type underwater device I have today, this housing was a heavy and bulky oval contraption made of glass and metal. My brother affectionately called it 'Little Dude' after the underwater probe in The Abyss. It was a monster, but it protected the GL1, even if we amn near drowned ourselves trying to get it back out of the pool. Basically, I swam around with Little Dude and flippers as my brother swam along. The shots where I was swimming underneath my brother was a strain on the lung capacity, but I thought resulted in the prettiest shot of the film: the slow-mo shot of my brother swimming above me. Editing was quick, as there weren't that many effects or songs (a rarity for a Trevor Sagan short), I think I finished it over the Christmas Break.

Looking back on this short, I'm disappointed. What seemed kind of poignant to me at the time, seems cheesy and melodramatic. Note to self, this is a lesson about never making a self-serious short. Maybe its the music, from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. I thought it would add some heft, but it is kind of ridiculous. Now I just consider this a comedy, though the message I was trying to convey about that time in my brother and my lives was serious. It was supposed to be about how exhausting the process was, about how one could rise above that dreary existence to attain a kind of victory through self-competition. Oh well. I also neglected to account for the presence of flourescent lighting, which makes the color skew if the shot lasts longer than a few seconds. So, failed experiment. But there are a couple nice shots and sequences. I liked the montage sequence where the swimmer constantly misses the time he is aiming for. The note my brother is reading in the car was my actual acceptance letter for the Columbia Swim Team. And on a purely comedic level, I love it when my brother goes all bug-eyed when imaging a swimming victory. The beating-yourself technique of getting fired up for a race is based on a guy I used to swim with who used to slap himself hard and scrape his hands raw on the block before he would race, the pain fueling his energy. Its not for every swimmer. I also enjoy the outtakes at the end of the film. Especially when I have my brother start hitting himself and our old swim coach pipes up from the other side of the pool, "Can I help?" Classic.

 

written 7/25/06